I have some questions about the poem "Cooks Brook" by Al Pittman. First, why  does he say: "It would be better to die / skull smashed open in the water / than it would be to climb / backward down...

I have some questions about the poem "Cooks Brook" by Al Pittman. First, why  does he say: "It would be better to die / skull smashed open in the water / than it would be to climb / backward down to the beach"? Second, how is the poem is relevant to the experience of teenagers today?

 

 

Expert Answers
thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Al Pittman (April 11, 1940 – August 26, 2001) was a poet who grew up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. This poem recounts a childhood experience of diving off a high ledge into a natural pool formed in a brook.

The narrator seems to be looking back at the antics of his younger self and his friends, thinking about the emotions experienced. Diving off a high ledge is frightening, especially when, as described in the poem, there is a rocky area jutting into the pool, so that if you do not jump far enough out, you will die. On the one hand, common sense and our natural fear of heights would prompt us not to make the dive. On the other hand, especially for teenage males, diving off the high ledge is a proof of courage and masculinity. Backing down from the ledge would not only require going against peer pressure but might result in moving down in the informal school pecking order and being subjected to humiliation or bullying by peers while as successful dive would increase ones social stature, as seen in the statement:

Not everyone had guts enough

To dive from the top ledge

The relevance of the poem is the social dynamic in which peer pressure causes young people to act in ways that are risky, perhaps by experimenting with drugs, engaging in criminal behavior, or in having unprotected sexual encounters. Even in an urban setting, the sense of peer pressure leading teens to make unwise choices remains constant.